This tutorial is aimed at the do-it-yourselfer personality who is looking to start their own professional looking website/blog, but has little experience/knowledge in the field. You’re someone who doesn’t want to spend a lot of time up front learning how to code to build your own website from scratch; you’d rather get something good set up quickly, learning bits and pieces on the go to fine tune your website as your skills improve.
If you want to build yourself a website using the method I outline below you will need to pay for domain registration, hosting and possibly a theme.
Your domain name and hosting will be a recurring cost and you can expect to pay around $7 per month for as long as you have your website. Buying a theme is optional and the price is variable depending on the quality and level of customization you need.
These services are nice because they are free, but they don’t offer you the freedom of customization an independent website has.
You are also stuck with a website address of: www.mywebsite.blogspot.com instead of www.mywebsite.com. It’s akin to going into a job interview with a resume having firstname.lastname@example.org as the email address.
It’s not wrong, but you won’t be taken as seriously.
Pick a Domain Name
This is the unique address people will type into their web browser to find your website. For example, my domain name is: www.thequestforawesome.com. To search for domain availability you can use Bluehost. Click the Get Started Now button where you can input ideas and see if they are taken or not.
Purchase Domain Name & Web Hosting
After you have found an available domain, you need to pay to rent the domain name and hosting.
The website you are building is like a house. The domain name is like the address to your home, it’s what you tell people so they can find you. Web hosting is like the actual house, it’s the space your website occupies on the world wide web.
You are not allowed to buy your domain name forever, just for a selected period of time (10 year intervals is the longest you can rent before having to renew). Buying a domain forever would be like trying to buy your street address forever. You can’t; the government could decide to build a new road, re-address the houses, and all of the sudden your 867 Tommy St. becomes 5309 Jenny St.
To put it another way, there’s nothing to “own.” You’re paying for the service of listing your website in a directory, which points your domain name to your web hosting service.
This brings us to web hosting. Remember, web hosting is like your house. Just like buying and owning your own house, you can own and run your own web hosting, but it involves setting up your own server; this is too advanced for this tutorial and not recommended for a beginner.
It’s much easier to rent your web hosting. I have been using Bluehost for the past 4 years and I haven’t had any problems. They will even give new customers a free domain name for a year when you purchase hosting from them.
WordPress is a free, open source blogging tool and a content-management system. It’s like the engine of your car.
Bluehost offers free 1-click script installs of WordPress, which makes it effortless to get started.
After you’ve purchased your domain name and hosting, log into your Bluehost account and find your cPanel. Under Website Builders you will see WordPress (see the picture below). Click and follow the instructions to set it all up. If you’re using a hosting service not offering a 1-click install, here are instructions for installing WordPress manually.
You will pick a new username and password used to login to your website to make changes. When you’re finished you will be taken to your WordPress login page to access your WordPress Dashboard. The login url will look like: http://www.[The Domain Name You Purchased].com/wp-login.php
After you login to your website through WordPress you’ll be taken to your WordPress Dashboard, which will look similar to the picture below. Your WordPress Dashboard is what you will use to build and make changes to your website.
The best way to learn how it all works is to experiment through the dashboard, save it and load your webpage in a new tab to see what you did.
Pick a Theme
If WordPress is like your car’s engine, then a theme is like the model of your car. Do you want to drive a BMW, Honda or a Pinto? Your theme is how your website will look on the outside.
Depending on your budget, there are free themes and individually built/customized themes and everything in between. At first, I started with free themes (found under Appearance>Themes>Add New in your WordPress Dashboard) and toyed around with them for a while. They were helpful with getting me familiar with the WordPress dashboard and its functionality. However, they weren’t providing me with the quality I wanted.
I did some research and purchased the Genesis Framework with a Genesis Child Theme through Studiopress. To continue with the car analogy, the Genesis Framework is like a Mercedes and the Genesis Child Theme is like the car’s paint job. Studiopress has many different Child Themes to choose from to give your website the look you want and the Child Themes come with step-by-step instructions on how to set them up.
Alter Your Theme
If you really want to customize your theme to your liking you are going to want to learn HTML and CSS, which are the programming languages websites use. I highly recommend taking Codecademy’s Web Fundamentals course. It’s free and it will teach you the building blocks of web development with HTML and CSS, and by the end of the course you will know how to create your own website or use your skills to tinker with a theme to get it to look and function how you’d like.
There are also thousands of WordPress plugins/widgets you can install; they don’t require any HTML or CSS knowledge, but allow you to customize your website further.
Play around with it all, and experiment to see what it all does. Look for inspiration in other blogs you like and see if you can replicate the features you enjoy.
Your blog is all set up, all you need now is the content!
If you decide to take the plunge and create your own website using this guide and run into issues, please leave a comment below or use the contact page and I’ll do my best to help you.
Also, I recommend these particular products because they are what I use and I’ve never had a problem with them. However, in the interest of transparency, the links for Bluehost and Studiopress are affiliate links. This means if you click the links and end up buying a product, I will get paid a commission for the sale.